Good hardware can really help to make a photographer’s life so much easier. Is this keyboard tablet hybrid about to change how we work?
If a traditional keyboard and mouse are keeping you sitting in front of your computer longer than you would like, then a tablet could be the answer to help speed things up. This week, artist and illustrator Brad Colbow is back once again with another insightful video, where he tests a tablet that I think many photographers will find interesting. The tablet in question is the Huion Inspiroy Keydial KD200, which is a mash-up of a drawing tablet and a traditional keyboard. Colbow walks us through the tablet’s features, which include several programmable buttons as well as a zoom wheel. If all that wasn’t enough, there is also the left-hand side of a regular keyboard included in this device too. For those that use the likes of Photoshop, this tablet should allow you to do most of your editing work without the need for your regular keyboard.
As you can see in the video, the size of the tablet is fairly generous to work on, yet small enough to potentially travel with. For me, the fact a seasoned illustrator praises this tablet is good news for us photographers whose needs are probably less demanding. Colbow ends the video by saying this tablet is 90 percent of the way there for a fraction of the price you’d normally pay. If you’re in the market for a tablet, this could be what you’ve been looking for.
What do you think of this tablet for photographers? Do you think you could ditch the mouse and make the switch? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Wacom has announced that its Wacom Intuos Small non-wireless model has been given the ‘Works With Chromebook’ certification, giving Chromebook users, especially students and beginning creatives, more options when using drawing, painting and photo editing applications that work flawlessly on Chromebook.
“Chromebook has been attracting attention among education sectors and by those seeking new solutions for working from home. Wacom is currently working on expanding Chromebook compatibility to include further Wacom devices and bring its intuitive and natural pen technology to a fast-growing number of Chromebook users,” says Faik Karaoglu, Executive Vice President of Wacom’s Branded Business. “Combining an Intuos tablet and Chromebook also enables young creatives to unleash their full art and design potential with a number of drawing and painting apps. A long-term collaborative partnership with Celsys offers Wacom Intuos users with an opportunity to create spectacular art with the renowned drawing application, Clip Studio Paint.”
The Wacom Intuos Small non-wireless model connects seamlessly with any Chromebook featuring USB-A and the latest version of Chrome OS. No driver is required.
Wacom Intuos purchases also come with a software bundle, including a 3-month free subscription to Clip Studio Paint Pro along with Collaboard, Limnu, Explain Everything and Kami.
Wacom Intuos Small non-wireless model is now compatible with Chrome OS, Windows, Mac and select Android devices. It uses a proprietary Wacom technology exclusively for the dedicated tablet surface and works independently from, and will not interfere with, on-screen pens based on the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) pen standard that either comes with the Chromebooks or can be purchased as accessories.
Wacom Intuos is available at the Wacom eStore and select resellers with a recommended retail price of £70. For further information on Wacom Intuos, please visit the product page on wacom.com.
If you run out of storage space on your phone or tablet, you’ll definitely want to find a way to get more. One of the simplest options is to insert a microSD card. Sadly, not all smartphones and tablets support microSD cards. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, some of the best Android smartphones and tablets do support them, although if you’re the owner of a Samsung Galaxy S21, you might be disappointed to note Samsung has removed the microSD card slot in their latest flagship.
It’s best to fully understand how to use a microSD in order to get the most out of it. To see if your device accepts them, check the full specs for your phone on the manufacturer’s website or look for a microSD card slot in your phone. On newer phones, they’re generally part of the SIM tray.
What to consider when buying a microSD card
There are a handful of things to consider when you’re choosing a new microSD card for your phone. Obviously, the price and capacity are going to be factors, but you also need to make sure that the type of card you buy is supported by your device and that it’s suitable for your needs.
SDHC and SDXC
SDHC stands for Secure Digital High Capacity, and SDXC stands for Secure Digital Extended Capacity. The only real difference is the range of data they can store. You’ll find that SDHC microSD cards range from 2GB to 32GB in size, while SDXC microSD cards can range from 32GB up to 2TB in size, though the biggest microSD card we’ve seen so far is 1TB.
Speed Class ratings
You’ll probably come across a slew of number-symbol combinations printed on cards and their packaging. These are Speed Class indicators that refer to a microSD card’s minimum sustained write speed. Write speed tells you how quickly data can be saved to the card and is expressed in megabytes per second (MBps). It’s useful to keep in mind when shopping for certain use cases like video recording. There are currently three classes: Speed Class, Ultra High Speed (UHS) Speed Class, and Video Speed Class. The original Speed Class is denoted by the write speed enclosed in a large “C,” while UHS Speed Class is shown with a Class number inside a large “U.” The mark for Video Speed Class is a stylized “V” followed by the write speed. Here’s how the minimum speeds for the different classes break down.
Minimum write speed
Most reputable microSD cards these days will have at least a Class 10 rating for write speeds. These are just minimum requirements, and many cards are capable of faster speeds than their rating. A Class 10 card may offer 95 MBps, for example. Read or transfer speeds are likely to be respectable — around 100MBps — across many options as well.
Application Performance Class
The SD Association also has a standard called Application Performance Class, which is designed to highlight microSD cards that are suitable for use in smartphones and tablets. The A1 rating means that the card can manage random read input-output access per second (IOPS) of 1,500 and write IOPS of 500. The A2 rating indicates random read input-output access per second of 4,000 and write IOPS of 2,000. This is ideal for quickly opening apps and processing tasks. These A1 and A2 cards are worth looking out for if you intend to format your card as internal storage in an Android device, something Google calls “Adoptable Storage.”
Choosing a microSD card for your needs
If you are simply focused on adding storage space for downloaded files and casual pictures and videos, the lower Speed Class ratings will do just fine for your phone or tablet. Content creators shooting a lot of video will want to look for higher-end Class 10 and UHS microSD cards, at the very least. These will be better equipped to handle 4K resolutions and high frame rates of 60 frames per second or 120 fps. Android power users may want to consider cards with the App Performance Class designation.
In any case, you’re obviously going to want the highest speed, highest capacity microSD card you can get for the lowest price. We would advise you to factor in the brand reputation and the reported performance and reliability. Check out the warranty terms, just in case something should go wrong. You also need to be careful where you buy. If you’re going to use Amazon or eBay, then read some customer reviews and watch out for fake microSD cards because they’re disappointingly common.
The best microSD cards for your smartphone or tablet
We’ve picked out five of the best microSD cards for smartphones, from casual to professional use. You may want to look beyond this list, but we advise you to stick to well-known brands like Samsung, Lexar, SanDisk, Toshiba, and Kingston. All prices are correct at the time of writing, but the microSD card market moves fast, so expect them to change.
SanDisk Extreme 32GB
Here’s a speedy SDHC card that offers read speeds of up to 100 MBps and write speeds of up to 60 MBps. This is a durable card with a lifetime warranty in most regions, and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. It will have no trouble with 1080p video and can even handle 4K, though you may want a larger capacity if that’s what you’re buying it for. It is certified UHS Speed Class 3, V30, and A1 for Adoptable Storage. It also comes with a handy SD adapter.
Samsung Evo Plus 64GB
This SDXC card is rated as UHS 3 and offers transfer speeds of up to 100 MBps. It’s a durable and reliable microSD card with a lot of positive reviews. It’s fast and efficient for use in phones and tablets and won’t have any trouble recording 1080p video, but you should opt for another card if you shoot in 4K. Ultimately, it’s a great all-arounder for a reasonable price.
Lexar Professional 128GB
For consumers looking for a fast-acting microSD card with a reasonable capacity, this Lexar card is a go-to option. The product is an SDXC card with a UHS 3 rating that also supports read speeds up to 270 MBps. This card can support 4K video recording with ease— just ensure the video has a minimum sustained write speed of 90 MBps. If you’re the friend who always seems to be filming videos on your mobile device, you’ll find that this card is an excellent match. And if our word isn’t enough, check out the sea of good reviews online backing it up.
Kingston Canvas Select Plus 256GB
This UHS 3 card is A1 rated, so it’s optimized for use in Android phones. It supports up to 256GB at a cost that fits many budgets, and it can easily support 1080p video recordings. Unfortunately, this card doesn’t have write speeds capable of executing 4K video recordings, but it does have improved read speeds up to 100 MBps. Your purchase also comes with an SD adapter.
PNY Pro Elite 512GB
If you’re not sure you need 1TB of storage — but 256GB seems like too little — this 512GB microSD card from PNY is the perfect middle ground. True, it’s not the fastest, with read speeds of up to 100 MBps and write speeds of up to 90MBps, but it’s a great option for your phone as it runs apps directly from the microSD card. Its U3 and V30 ratings mean it can handle 4K video, though if this is your main reason for buying the card, we recommend upgrading to the SanDisk Extreme 1TB instead. It’s also waterproof, shockproof, and magnet-proof, so it’s a great choice if you frequently switch your card between devices.
SanDisk Extreme 1TB
If your main priority is storage, then look no further than the 1TB option from the Sandisk Extreme line. This product comes with expanded storage options, and its UHS 3 and V30 Speed Class ratings both mean it’s capable of handling 4K video recording with ease. The card’s read speeds measure at about 160 MBps, and its write speeds reach up to 90 MBps. You’ll want to ensure your device is fully compatible with maximizing that potential performance. On top of all of these excellent performance features, the card also received one of the highest possible A2 ratings for its storage capabilities on Android devices.
You wouldn’t freely share your home address or phone number with just anyone, and the same instinct for privacy should extend to your photos. Most people have a few photos they’re willing to share with others, while the rest are destined to remain in a private collection to shield the privacy of you and your family. Every so often, you may hand over your phone so your boss, co-worker, or best friend can see your cat doing something cute — but in that moment, there’s no guarantee your viewer will stop there.
It’s up to you to protect the privacy of your photos at all times and make sure random folks can’t continue to swipe and check out the rest of your photos. Because the temptation may be overwhelming, you can hide photos on your Android device — either in the device settings or using a third-party app. We show you how it’s done.
Hide photos on your Android phone
While there’s no built-in secure way to hide photos on an Android phone or tablet, many Android device manufacturers offer native privacy features that help you to easily shield photos and other files from prying eyes. The archive function in Google Photos can also come in handy for this purpose. The example shown below is with the latest version of Google Photos using Android 11 on a Samsung S20 FE.
Archive photos in Google Photos
If you use Google Photos on your Android phone, then you can employ the archive function to hide any photos you’d rather people didn’t accidentally stumble onto from the main feed. Don’t worry about losing your precious pictures — these photos will still be accessible via the Archive, in albums, and via search.
Find the photos you want to archive and hover over either the date (to choose all) or over the first image (to select non-consecutive images) and then tap the circle at the upper left of each thumbnail of the photos you want to hide. Each hidden photo will have a checkmark.
Tap the three vertical dots at the top right of the screen and choose Move to Archive from the drop-down menu.
You will get a notification that your selected photos have been archived. You can Undo this action immediately if you change your mind.
You can still access these photos by tapping the Library icon at the bottom right of the screen and then tapping on the Archive button. To put them back into the main photo feed, tap and hold to select, then tap the three vertical dots at the top right and tap Unarchive.
Hide photos on a Samsung phone
If you have a Samsung phone, like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, there’s a robust, secure mode to keep your private photos and videos private.
Open the Settings and tap on Biometrics and security then find the Secure Folder option and tap on it.
It may prompt you to sign in to your account and agree to the terms.
Now you can configure your Secure Folder and decide whether it should appear in the app drawer, how to access it, whether it should lock automatically when the screen turns off, and various other options.
We recommend locking it with your fingerprint and setting it to lock automatically when the screen turns off.
Open the Gallery app and find a photo you want to hide.
Tap and hold to select it and tap the three vertical dots at the bottom right.
Choose Move to Secure Folder from the drop-down list.
If you ever want to unhide photos, simply find them in the Gallery app in the Secure Folder, tap and hold to select, then tap the three vertical dots at the top right and choose.
Best Android apps for hiding photos
If your phone or tablet doesn’t have a built-in security option for hiding photos, then your best bet is to download and install one of the best photo hiding apps. There are a few that we recommend.
LockMyPix guards your personal pictures with a hidden, encrypted, and protected photo and video vault. Replete with military-grade AES encryption, this app offers full authority over who has access to seeing your images. You have a variety of intuitive sign-in options for your vault. Some of these options utilize a PIN, face recognition, fingerprint, password, or pattern. These options all guarantee constant, robust surveillance over anyone who attempts to enter your vault. Users can even utilize the Fake Vault setting to build a trick vault for even greater protection. This additional vault provides a separate PIN and limitless storage.
Vaulty is a top-rated and free Android appthat conceals your pictures and extends a few other services as in-app purchases. The app enables you to guard photos and videos in a vault that is only accessible using a PIN or password. It includes a special backup feature that immediately encrypts and stores your pictures in the cloud. To enhance your security, you even have the option to generate numerous different vaults for your photos and videos, each with its own individual password. Vaulty even incorporates a mugshot feature that will capture a photo of invaders who try to break into your vault.
Gallery Vault is another easy and widely used Android photo-hiding app that is similar to a secure locker. It allows you to pick the photos and videos you want to protect and secure them with a PIN, fingerprint, or passcode. It also encrypts your images. The one disadvantage to this app is that there’s no online backup. Your files will remain on the device. Gallery Vault extends Micro SD card support and a false passcode option that points to a fake vault. The app also gives users a secret icon that disguises the app itself. You can also set up notifications to receive when anyone is trying to trespass.
What do you get when you take a bunch of former Wacom employees, start a new company, and give them carte blanche to develop a brand new pen tablet? What you get is Xencelabs, a new player in graphics that is bringing some much-needed innovation to a stale market. This is no cheap knock-off we’re talking about, Xencelabs’ new Pen Tablet Medium just put Wacom on notice.
For those of you who haven’t been following this space, it’s not that Wacom has been short of competition lately. XP-PEN and Huion in particular have been releasing high-quality pen tablets and pen displays at an alarming clip, while also charging a fraction of Wacom prices for a similar combination of core specs. We’ve reviewed a few of these products and have been duly impressed by what we found.
But both XP-PEN and Huion are very clearly Wacom knock-offs. They are high-quality knock-offs that offer similar performance for a lot less money, but knock-offs all the same. You can’t shake the feeling that you’re using a product designed to undercut Wacom, which usually means cutting a few corners when it comes to build quality, software, customer support, and extraneous features like wireless connectivity.
That’s where the Xencelabs Pen Tablet sets itself apart. It’s a true-blue competitor that meets or exceeds the most stringent build standards, adds some refreshing design elements, and checks all the professional-grade boxes.
Design and Build Quality
The Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium is available in two different configurations: a standard kit that includes the tablet and two pens ($280), and a “bundle” that includes the tablet, two pens, and the Quick Keys express key remote ($360). Whichever configuration you choose, everything in the box simply oozes “premium” quality.
The tablet itself is built like a tank, with a 16:9 aspect ratio, a10.33 x 5.8-inch active area, and a few really neat little design cues that make it very comfortable to use.
The active area is marked off on the corners by lighted insets that can be customized to a color of your choice, the bottom tapers to a smooth edge so you can comfortably rest your drawing hand on the tablet without a sharp edge digging into your palm, and the three built-in express keys at the top allow you to quickly access the tablet settings, adjust pen pressure, or switch displays if you’re using the tablet with multiple monitors.
That last feature is particularly useful to me, as I’m frequently drawing on a laptop hooked up to a secondary display. At the touch of a button I can now toggle the tablet mapping between laptop only, main display only, or both.
The lights around the active area are also incredibly convenient, as they can be set to different colors for different apps, giving you a quick reference to ensure the right app/shortcuts are active.
Finally, the surface of the tablet itself was tooled to give you just the right amount of “bite.” It is enough so that it feels like you’re drawing on a natural surface instead of slick plastic, but not so much that you notice the resistance fighting you. The surface texture is very similar in feel to my Intuos Pro, and definitely superior to the other third-party tablets I’ve tested.
The fact that Xencelabs includes not one but two different pens in the box is a brilliant move that further sets them apart from their main competition. The thick, traditional style pen includes three buttons while the thinner version has only two, but both include EMR erasers on the other end and they can be configured independently.
I mostly stuck to the thick three-button pen because it felt better in my hand and I like the extra customization, but I can imagine many users who will set up the pressure curves and shortcut keys of their two pens differently, and switching between them for different tasks. One pen for pen tool selections and another for brushwork, for example.
And since they both come in the same (very sturdy) pen case, it’s easy to keep everything together when you throw the tablet in your bag.
The Quick Keys Remote (Sold Separately)
If you decide to spend the additional $80 on the Pen Tablet Medium Bundle — and I suggest that you do — you’ll get all of the above plus the excellent Xencelabs’ Quick Keys remote.
The lack of traditional express keys on the Xencelabs Tablet is one of its few downsides, since the three customizable buttons at the top are not really meant to be used for common shortcuts. But for $360 — which is still $20 less expensive than the Wacom Intuos Pro Medium — you can get the tablet, both pens, and the Quick Keys Remote.
The remote features eight shortcut buttons, a multi-function adjustment dial with a light ring around it, and an OLED display that tells you what each button will do. The dial can be programmed to four different settings, each with its own light color, which you cycle through by pressing the button in the center. The OLED display, meanwhile, allows you to program up to 40 different shortcuts, cycling through a maximum of 5 sets of 8 shortcuts by pressing the button at the top of the remote.
Here, again, you see Xencelabs attention to every little detail: The customizable light color, the fact it takes full advantage of the screen, and you can even select from four different orientations depending on how you prefer to work.
As with the pens and tablet itself, the remote can be programmed differently for each app, with a different set of shortcuts, a different set of dial settings, and a different color scheme for each of those settings.
Everything about the design and built quality of this tablet and its accessories impressed me. I’ve used high-quality Wacom competitors before, but no product, not a single one, felt like Wacom’s equal until now. The materials that Xencelabs chose, the attention to every design detail, and the usability of all of the above sets a new bar for graphics tablet design.
Usability and Performance
Xencelabs attention to detail didn’t stop at build and design, as the company put a lot of thought and effort into usability and performance as well.
The guided setup is really simple. It automatically detects all connected devices and loads them into a beautiful interface that lets you customize everything about the tablet, pens, and Quick Keys remote to your hearts’ content.
However you choose to set things up, you’ll have the option of using the tablet plugged in or wirelessly via the included dongle. I’ll be honest, having to plug in a Logitech-like dongle to use the tablet wirelessly — when my computer already has bluetooth built right in — is a bit of a drag, but Xencelabs insists that this allows them to cut down on latency and ensure a stable connection.
I can buy that… and I can attest that I never had any connection issues when using the tablet wirelessly, which I did almost exclusively after the initial setup.
You will need to plug the tablet back in when it runs short on battery, but many hours of use over the course of one month has only drained the battery of my tablet and Quick Keys by about 50%, so battery life is really not an issue. In many ways, the connectivity, charging, and usability of the devices reminds me of my Logitech MX Master series keyboard and mouse. To borrow an overused phrase from Apple: it just works.
Performance was stellar. The tablet/pens boast an exacting pressure response that is extremely sensitive on the low end of the curve, and every built-in feature functioned as advertised. I even tested features I never use, like Mouse Mode, and nothing ever let me down.
In fact, from setup, through customization, through actually using the Xencelabs Pen Tablet as my main graphics tablet, I experienced only one major hiccup: in its current form, the tablet driver WILL NOT WORK if you have a Wacom tablet driver installed at the same time.
I’ve never run into this problem with any other tablet maker, but whatever the reason, you MUST delete your Wacom drivers before installing and using the Xencelabs tablet. Since many people are likely to be switching brands from Wacom if/when they buy this tablet, this is a very important point.
Xencelabs tells us they’re working on a proper fix, but before working with them to figure out my issues, the tablet was practically unusable. The cursor would jump between points, pressure sensitivity would fail, and some features would sometimes stop working outright. Hopefully by the time you receive your unit, this will be a moot point; until then, if you plan to use both Xencelabs and Wacom tablets on the same computer — even if you’re not using them at the same time — you’re going to have a bad time.
The only other “issue” I spotted is the lack of multi-touch functionality, something that Wacom does include in their Intuos Pro line. Honestly, I actually prefer not having touch functionality, since palm rejection fails as often as it succeeds on my Intuos, but your mileage may vary. If using multi-touch gestures to zoom or move along your canvas is important, you’re out of luck.
King of the Hill
As a reviewer, one of my jobs is to find the quirks and issues. I test features I don’t use, put the tablet through some frankly ridiculous tests, and exchange countless emails with Product Managers to make sure I’m not missing something. It makes me a bit of a pain as a reviewer, but it’s a good way to tease out the issues.
Usually, a first-generation product that tries to compete with the biggest player in the industry would fail in a few obvious ways, especially if it’s cheaper. Build quality, performance, customer support… something usually has to suffer. But that’s simply not the case here.
In every way that matters, the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium meets or exceeds my expectations and shows that there is still room for innovation in the graphics tablet space.
Fantastic build quality
Creative new ergonomic design
Ships with two different pens and sturdy pen case
Easy-to-use software with lots of customization options
Fantastic quick-keys remote with built-in screen
Tablet malfunctions if Wacom driver is installed
Quick-Keys remote sold separately
Only three built-in express keys
Wireless functionality requires separate dongle (included)
No touch/gesture functionality
Are There Alternatives?
Other than the elephant in the room, the main alternatives are the same tried and true names that come up in every graphics tablet review: XP-PEN and Huion. They’re not the only affordable third-party alternatives in the game, but they are the best, and the XP-PEN Deco Pro and Huion Inspiroy Dial tablets offer similar core features to the Xencelabs tablet and cost between $120 and $180 less.
You’ll get the same 8000+ levels of pressure sensitivity from a battery-free pen, built-in dials and express keys, and software that has never given this writer trouble. You’ll give up build quality, customer service is hit-or-miss, the included pens simply aren’t on the same level as Xencelabs or Wacom, and the XP-PEN Deco Pro does not feature any kind of wireless connectivity.
Should You Buy It?
There’s no other way to put it: as I write this, the Xencelabs Pen Tablet Medium is the best medium-sized pen tablet money can buy. They’ve leapfrogged Wacom on their first try, leaving me very excited to see what they’ll do next.
Xencelabs already told us they have a pen display in the pipeline. In the meantime, I will be trading in my Intuos Pro, and keeping a very close eye on the updates from this company.
Enter today’s Christmas Prize Draw for the chance to win either an XP-Pen Innovator 16 or Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition Graphics Tablet!
Introducing The Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition & Innovator 16 Graphics Tablets
XP-Pen are honoured to be giving away their best-selling Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition and the Innovator 16 as prizes in the ePHOTOzine Christmas Prize Draw!
The Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition features specially-designed packaging that XP-Pen introduced recently and, as well as offering professional features and portable size, they have included lots of extra goodies including a poster and jigsaw puzzle. The Innovator 16 is another popular graphics tablet that has a unique, stylish design and excellent performance.
XP-Pen also has a wide range of other graphics tablets for you to take a look at this Holiday Season.
Win either an XP-Pen Innovator 16 or Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition Graphics Tablet!
XP-Pen recently introduced the Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition to its graphics tablet line-up and it’s equipped with professional features such as 8192 pen pressure, pen tilt and a wide colour gamut. Plus, with its reasonable price, the Artist 13.3 Pro holiday edition will make a great gift option for beginners and professionals alike.
As well as the Artist 13.3 Pro, XP-Pen also offer the 15.6″ Innovator Display 16 with its industry-leading 9mm profile and a sleek black/silver design. Perfect for drawing on the go, the Innovator Display 16 equips both a mechanical and a virtual wheel with full lamination technology, allowing you to zoom in/out of your canvas. Plus, by using two wheels, it creates a minimal parallax visual experience.
Enter below to be in with a chance of winning an XP-Pen Innovator 16 or Artist 13.3 Pro Holiday Edition Graphics Tablet!
P.S. a huge ‘thank you’ to all of our members for being part of our amazing community and to those clients who have supported us through these unprecedented circumstances. It’s been a tough year, so ‘thanks’ – we couldn’t have made it through 2020 without you!
Wishing you all a lovely Christmas and here’s hoping 2021 will be healthy and happy all round.
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